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Interviews with ASUN Senators Jaime Gonzalez and Yeshu Cano Sanchez + Student Highlights

Posted on Monday, October 17, 2022

The ASUN Department of IDEA’s “Proud to be ____ With Nevada” campaign works to highlight and empower underrepresented students at University of Nevada, Reno. Last month, they held the Proud to be Latinx With Nevada campaign in honor of National Hispanic Heritage month. During this campaign, the department interviewed Jaime Gonzalez and Yeshu Cano Sanchez, both Latinx ASUN Senators. These interviews cover their experiences as Latinx students in higher education, the issues students from similar backgrounds face, and the possible remedies to the previously mentioned problems.

Following the interviews are student highlights from Proud to be Latinx With Nevada. These highlights focus on University of Nevada, Reno students Aileen Cruz and Alexa Vera.

We at ASUN are proud of these students for their achievements and are glad we are able to share their stories with you.

Jaime Gonzalez

Tell us about yourself and your experiences as part of the University. How has your Latinx/Hispanic background impacted your experience in higher education?

“I am Jaime Gonzalez and I am a DACA student. Born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, I was brought over as an infant. I was learning both languages at the same time growing up so I have an accent in both languages. It didn’t really phase me that I was undocumented or what it meant to be Latino until I started looking for options into my future. I started to realize that there would be a lot more things I would have to get through to be on the same page as those who are citizens. Within higher education, I see my status as both beneficial and a detriment. For one, there is benefit in that there are resources for me in the university that have helped me in my college career. Anything from the IM Grant to support from campus social services. Detriments were that specific to UNR I don’t feel as comfortable realizing many professors did not get where I was coming from. So I rarely felt understood. The Latino professors and those more involved with their students have always pushed me to do more for myself, but I only got to that point in the recent years. My college start at UNR was a bit solitary at first.”

Realizing how much you have achieved is such a beautiful experience. What achievements/experiences are you proud of that have made you grow and become a better version of yourself?

“Anytime I take a leadership role I feel accomplished. Doing good in projects makes me feel fulfilled as well. I like to remind myself that when there is pressure I don’t fold easily. That said, there are always times where I don’t do so well. But the important part is knowing you can keep going. It doesn’t end after failure. In my time at UNR. I have competed in ad competitions, started a club, started a podcast, done amazing personal projects and pushed myself to grow into the type of person I want to be.”

From your experiences at the University and position as a Senator, what issues impact Latinx students at the University and what are your plans to address them?

“There isn’t enough visibility for the Latino community. This is something everyone should remind themselves of. In a college where the Latin community makes up almost a fourth of it. There is no recognition of our needs. The Latino Research Center itself is a bottom floor on an outer edge of the university where there is no parking for it or visible marking that it is there. The Social Services Coordinator is literally only one person while UNLV has a team for the hundreds of cases they get each semester. God bless her soul but Janet cannot do it all by herself when it comes to that kind of support and even now she isn’t accessible as most days she is required in other places that are not her office at the Niche. Not to mention Latino faculty is dwindling. In this year alone over 20 Latino faculty members have left. One of them being Ezequiel Korin who was a proud Latino and gave amazing support to his students. Unfortunately the university environment did not match what he was hoping for and like so many others found a better step for their careers. We need Latinos in faculty so that we know we are seen. That we will be understood if we were to come up to our professors and discuss issues that may be unique to Latinos themselves. Giving support is one thing all professors should do but to truly understand the situations I would like to know they have been in the same boat.”

What is your definition of diversity, equity, and inclusion? How do you encourage people to honor the uniqueness of each individual?

“For me the definition boils down to everyone being served accordingly and represented fairly without anyone being left behind. All it takes is just having a conversation. Understand where people are coming from and taking into perspective what can be done to amend any issues that may have been expressed. Just talk to each other. Get to know a different perspective. The world would be a little easier to work with if you just took the time to know a little more of it.”

Describe how your career has been enhanced by exposure to diverse people, places, or experiences.

“Easily my career already has the benefit of communicating to two large audiences. Each with their own culture and own way of reaching out to it. I may not be the most cultural Mexican out there but that does not mean I don’t try to understand my roots. Knowing your identity helps you reach out to anyone who you can identify with. Doesn’t mean you can do ‘one trick serve all’, but you can do better for the groups that you can reach.”

As a senator, how have you incorporated the viewpoints and perspectives of underrepresented groups into your role?

‘I reach out and meet with the people I need to. I see where they stand and what they want and see how we can achieve it. It is a process, so don’t get dismayed if you are trying to do it all and fall short immensely. Some people will take more time to reach out to but as long as you stay steady you will reach all issues in time and work them out in time as well. Being a fresh face from the outside, I bring some of my personal concerns into being a senator as they are the issues that got me to run. I still stand with my running points. Strengthen journalism. Reach out to students, and have open lines of communication. My new point is also having my people seen. I feel like all four points can be blended if done right.”

Tell us about a time when you changed your style to work more effectively with a person from a different background.

“Just listen. The approach will be different depending on what is needed but always start by listening. Majority of the time they will tell you what they need and all you have to do is plan it out. Having empathy in these moments where students are most vulnerable is necessary. I know in my worst moments, Janet handled it amazingly. She listened and she gave me time to express what I needed. She covered any other resources and we went from there. Not one time will I start with a different method than by first listening.”

What do you think is the most difficult aspect of working in a diverse environment?

“That it still isn’t as diverse as we would like it to be. While there are some, our numbers don’t reflect it. This doesn’t mean forcing diverse environments. It has to be earned but what is needed is a push in support of diverse environments. Support students of color to participate. Most of the time they don’t because there is a stigma that we can’t do that or it isn’t for us. That is not true at all. We need to be involved with our communities. Show that they can do it. That it’s not out of reach for anyone. You just need the will to go for it. By being a Senator I hope to inspire someone to do more. Just being there can be the easiest and hardest thing you can do because there is always a little pushback at first but proving you can make it can show them they can as well. El aguante.”

How will you contribute to the University’s efforts to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion in a meaningful way?

“Reach out to the departments I need to and work with them on whatever they need. As of right now I have a few projects with Journalism, Latinidad, Student Media and single student projects. They all are a major stress but a stress I rather have than doing nothing. This stress counts for something. So as I get more white hairs, I can say it was for a good cause. I hope that I can achieve what needs to be done with the departments I meet. It won’t always be easy or fully accomplished but staying steady I hope to do enough for my communities.”

Yeshu Cano Sanchez

Tell us about yourself and your experience as part of the University. How has your Latinx/Hispanic background impacted your experience in higher education?

“My name is Yeshu Cano Sanchez, I am low income, first generation Mexican. I was born and raised here in Reno NV. My experience here at the university was intimidating at first. I had known the statistic was against people with Latinx background, and they go even lower when you’re low income. For this, I knew I wouldn’t see much Hispanic and Latinos, on top of those who are here, only a small majority grew up the way I did. Only a few can truly relate through the hard-fought experiences of telling your parents you want to go to college, and instead of seeing happiness on their face, you see worry of how they will possibly pay for it. I currently work 3 jobs because I vowed to never let them take out a cent of their bank accounts to pay for my education. I had felt imposter syndrome here for my first year. For those who don’t know it’s the ‘occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud’. I had this because I would sit in this huge auditorium of 300 students, I’d look to the right and left and not see anyone of a similar background to me, its now become daunting. Who am I to be here? Who am I to sit with these people? I am out of my natural habitat and people knew. When I tell people about what it took to get here, they say ‘wow, that must’ve been incredibly difficult to go through’ but it was the norm for me. You almost get looked at with fascination, as if you’re an entirely different life form. It was difficult to go through, but with the help I had around me with Deans Future Scholars, with TRiO Stem, and the help of those who had come up with me, I managed to realize that if anyone deserves to be here sitting in this auditorium, it would be me. As such, I will continue to pave the way for those who grew up like me. And set an example that if you put your mind to it, your hard work will be rewarded.”

Realizing how much you have achieved is such a beautiful experience. What achievements/experiences are you proud of that have made you grow and become a better version of yourself?

“No award, no medal, no certificate will ever bring me the joy and happiness from receiving a handwritten note from my students. You see, I work for Deans Future Scholars. A low-income, first-generation outreach program in which we recruit students in 6th grade, and help them achieve their dream of going into higher education. Despite the program being around for 22 years, we have yet to receive any state funding and the only reason the program is still moving and improving is because of those who see the goodness in the program and donate. For them, I am incredibly thankful for. I myself went through this program, and it had become life changing to me. I had amazing mentors in my life who helped me get to where I am and I told myself that I would do the same. And I do now, for 23 wonderful children. At the end of my first year, I had received several letters from my students, who had thanked me for helping them, who had thanked me for being there for them and for being their mentor. I shed tears as I read these notes. I took down every single award I had won in my life and framed these letters on my wall. These to me are my most valued possessions. These to me show me that I have worked hard to get here, that I can help others because I was once in their shoes. I have changed the lives of my students and I know some of them will go on to change the lives of others. A small ripple effect for the future generations to come. I have stood by my saying ‘my mentors crawled so I could walk, and I walk to the future can run’. I will continue to keep those as my most valued possessions and will continue to strive to be an even better mentor for those to come.”

From your experiences at this University and position as a Senator, what issues impact Latinx students at the University and what are your plans to address them.

“I think the biggest issue is outreach. Many of the Latinx and Hispanic students I have talked to don’t know the resources that campus provides to help us succeed. I know this stems because many of these students families did not go through college themselves, and because of that they came to the university blindly. I, as a Senator would like to create interventions to help those who don’t know about these initiatives. I would also like to have an increase of exposure of senators, this is because those who have done outreach to us have been mainly of Caucasian background. I wish to have the Latinx and Hispanic community more involved and would love to hear the issues they have to address them. The university also does outreach to Clayton Middle School, unfortunately they fail to do so with other middle schools who are in lower income areas. I wish to send students representatives out there to those middle schools to show that the university does want them to attend and does want them to succeed. These are current projects I am and have been working on. I will continue to strive to make this university more inclusive to those students and have them succeed in their goal for their degree.”

Proud to be Latinx With Nevada Student Highlights

Aileen Cruz

Aileen Cruz standing next to N sign.

Hello! My name is Aileen Cruz. I am a First Generation, second-year student, pursuing a dual degree in Business Administration concentrating in Accounting & Information Systems at the University of Nevada, Reno.

I remember the first time I stepped onto campus, I was so nervous yet excited to embark on this new journey where people with a background like mine don’t make it this far. I have managed to become a member of many organizations like: Honors College, Kappa Delta Chi, Business Student Council, and TRiO Scholars. I have also landed great career opportunities in only my second year. I work for the College of Business as an Academic Advisor Liaison for the Student Success Center, a NevadaFIT mentor, and outside of my academic career I work part-time as a server at Tacos Los Campesinos, my families owned business. I have also managed to push forward my graduation date a whole year ahead.

Being Latinx makes me a stronger person because where I come from going to college is only a dream, yet here I am living my dream. One of the many goals I have as a First generation college student is to achieve the American dream my parents traveled 3000+ miles for. I have found a sense of belonging in my new community. I am very proud of my culture and background and as I become an educated woman from Mexico, I will continue to appreciate all the sacrifices my parents have made for me to receive these amazing opportunities. I am forever thankful. Thank you.

Alexa Vera

Alexa Vera sitting on stairs.

My name is Alexa Vera and I am a Mexican-American, first generation student here at the University of Nevada, Reno. I am currently a sophomore with a Kinesiology major and a Sports Management minor. While attending school, I love to keep myself busy by being involved in multitude of clubs and activities. The extracurriculars include being in a greek letter organization sorority called Kappa Alpha Theta, Physical Therapy club, and recreational basketball pick up games at our UNR gym. I have a sense of pride to receive these opportunities that those generations before me have not had the chance to do so such as my parents. I’m fortunate to have numerous support systems behind me helping me pursue my dreams, and that is not only by my family but the people here on campus and in the organizations I am in. Go pack!

These accounts are important because they offer viewpoints that may not match our own as well as raise awareness to issues members of the greater student body body aren’t aware of. If you want to learn more, check out the ASUN Department of IDEA’s website. The next “The Proud to be ____ at Nevada” campaign will be focusing on people with disabilities, which will begin October 16th, 2022.

ASUN strives to make sure our campus is welcoming and supportive of people of all backgrounds. Every member of the Wolf Pack should be proud of who they are and not be afraid to show it.